Atchafalaya Swamp

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

SSS Reprise: The Quest For Eve

Thar Jath, Nunia

State of Alwehda (Unity), 1200 km southwest of Khartoum

I SQUINTED AT the luminescent display of my Casio Protrek - 33 degrees C it read; the sun blinding in the hot African bush afternoon. I alighted from the twin propeller Beechcraft thinking how much cooler it was compared to Khartoum, a brief respite from the forty-plus day temperatures in the capital. I stopped midway down the door (which doubled as the Beechcraft's stairs) and sniffed the air where the biological Eve and Adam once roamed. The humidity is about the same as Malaysia’s - in fact, if not for the barren landscape, it could very well be someplace in Kodiang, Kedah. But where is the airport terminal? None that I could see as Thar Jhaj is only a dusty airstrip. Except for a small white tent in the periphery there was no other man-made structure in sight. A few pick-up trucks had parked close to the aircraft, which I spied out the plane’s window moments before, looking desperately for the familiar tell tale markings of my company’s pick-up truck. No such luck.

The Beechcraft is a small 18 passenger plane, if you will, a minibus with wings. It has 11 rows and can actually sit 22 passengers but hey - this isn’t Singapore Airlines - the “cargo hold” overflowing into rows 10 and 11; bags, boxes, and critical rig supplies like rolls of toilet paper (sorry, no Scott's easy-on-your-bum but rather abrasive kind that wouldn't do your piles any good). What was a divider I’m sure, between the passenger cabin and cargo hold has been torn down. I can actually see our bags among some netting at the rear of the plane jumbled with a few boxes on top.

So here we are milling about the aircraft, my new white New Balance sneakers now reddish, covered in dust. I kicked the sneakers against the aircraft’s landing gear which brought a glare from the pilot. The pilot has since shut the propellers down - the signal to dig in our pockets for our much delayed nicotine fix. The Canadian captain and his Australian co-pilot, I noted, were also not immune to the ravages of nicotine dependence. Ah, Thank God for life's small pleasures, when your next flight could very well be your last.

After the Dunhill has glowed near its tip, I sauntered over the captain to make amends and small talk. A veteran of Africa, having done countless of airlifts for the UN and the International Red Cross in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Darfur - that renegade western state of Sudan - a state bigger than the whole of France, the Captain has now decided to save up for retirement. He claimed one can only take so much of "social work", which I take to mean as not getting paid much if one is in the employ of the UN or Red Cross.

He saw me eying the cargo hold door with a small aluminum ladder beneath it, the kind you can buy at Ace Hardware, and gestured with a nod and a wink. Everyone else seemed to be just lounging and milling, and I had no choice but to take the hint by gingerly climbing up that ladder. I have a similar ladder at home used for changing burnt light bulbs. But I’m not about to change feather-light light bulbs, mind you.

My assistant, Triantono -Tonto, a smiley buck-toothed thirty-something from Indonesia positioned himself as the catcher. And here I was hauling boxes and bags down onto Tonto simply because there was no else to do it. I think I am beginning to understand the African mentality; the Africans on the flight seemed to suffer from the “boss” syndrome - being cooks, minor officials and clerks, baggage handling was definitely beneath them.

I cast a disapproving look at Tonto.

He had put my RM 478.00 Scuba-Pro bag squarely on the red earth. Why couldn’t he put it on the boxes instead was beyond me. I shook my head in disgust. He noticed my reprimand and quickly hoisted my 30-kilo bag off the offending dirt (part inventory: Yeo’s-canned-chicken-curry, packs of Maggi Mee Ayam Flavor, mosquito netting like the one used in Malaysian boarding schools, two bottles of Johnnie Walker’s Black Label—can’t go wrong with the world’s most popular brand, a prayer mat, and some books to while away my time) .

As my assistant, Tonto had more to carry for sure; a largish Epson printer and other consumables for our worksite and his own personal bag. I quickly took pity on him and transferred the Scuba-Pro to my sore shoulder. When I bought that duffel bag I had in mind the most robust and heaviest-duty bag I can find, something that would exceed US Army specifications (if Armoured Personnel Carriers in Iraq is anything to go by, that isn't saying much). I had purchased it a dive shop back home where the pretty sales clerk said that it is used for oxygen tanks and divers’ paraphernalia. (Good enough for me, I remembered saying. But she was curious as to why I would want one, since I admitted that I never went diving.) The bag also has a set of solid wheels on one end where you can slide it over nice air-conditioned airport lounges and corridors. I never factored-in the parched African red earth. I shifted around to balance the offending weight on my shoulder, resolute in my determination to save it from further indignities.

You can’t stand around with about 40 kilos on your back and shoulder (inclusive of a 10-kilo laptop bag) under the dry African sun can you?

As luck would have it a small off-white twin cab Mitsubishi pick-up came careering out of nowhere, the two blue clad Sudanese in the front cab a welcoming sight indeed. The blue coveralls meant they were part of my crew coming from the site to pick us up. Hafiz and Moustafa, about a years’ oilfield experience between them, both recent engineering graduates from the elite University of Khartoum.

Here’s the thing: Both Hafiz and Moustafa are as befuddled as I am. They are from the Muslim North while we are in rebel—controlled Christian South. They natives here are either Christians or Animists, and they don’t speak Arabic. A sensible Assalamua’alaikum will not earn you brownie points among AK-47 carrying child soldiers. You’re better off claiming you’re Christian. Remembering my security briefing the day before I asked Hafiz about the so-called armed escorts. He cast a nervous smile, and said he’ll explain later. The rig was about thirty kilometers away but it took us the better part of an hour in this pock marked terrain to get there, as I was later to find out.

I dumped my dusty bag at the back of the cab and sat in front. Hafiz took the wheel with Moustafa and Tonto nicely catching up on company gossip in the back. The air conditioner was on full tilt, recycling gritty air in the cab. We trailed some trucks and visibility was down to tens of meters in the dust. I can forget returning my Scuba-Pro duffel to its former glory. As I peeked over my shoulder all I saw was red dusty clouds kicked up by the truck’s wheels.

Progress was excruciatingly slow. As we thrown about in the pick-up, I can tell that the truck's shock absorbers and springs were already shot . The cab also has a make shift roll cage, courtesy of our company’s welders in Hegleg, to survive a rollover impact. Or potentially survive a rollover, provided rocket-propelled grenades haven't got to you yet. Crash test engineers at Volvo’s Goteburg facility in Sweden would snicker at this pathetic attempt but we can’t blame our employer for trying, can we?

In this parched bush flatland occasionally dotted by grass and mud huts and burnt out trucks from the civil war, I wondered what the denizens do for a living. I saw neither domesticated animals nor cultivation. Only eagles and buzzards hover overhead. Obviously there must be people around—it’s just that I cannot see beyond the tall elephant grass perhaps. Frankly, I cannot imagine anyone could survive in such an inhospitable place.

Sometimes we saw people walking by the side of the road, the women fully swathed in colorful garb to protect them from the sun and sand. Where were they going? It’s always the women, I noticed, that was doing the work. Carrying firewood and earthenware pots on their proud heads and carrying naked little babies (sometimes two, one on each hip). Except for the huts, I couldn’t make out anything from the air earlier. On every point of the compass my eyes could only see the same desolate landscape scape, nary a village in sight.

Occasionally our truck was stopped by a few Dinka Bushmen. I noticed their faces scarred around the forehead, probably done at puberty as a rite of passage, or a badge of honor. Were they anesthetized when they went under the knife - or precisely - under sharp stone implements? More likely they used Gillette razor blades. The Bushmen just wanted to ride at the back of the pick-up for some unknown destination along our way. Now that I've arrived and become the de-facto "Boss", Hafiz looked deferentially my way. I was worried whether they would pilfer our bags (my instant noodles, for instance), but gave my thumbs-up anyway.

Earlier on the way to pick us up Hafiz said the child rebels had put a small log across the dirt track, setting an impromptu roadblock. I asked what they boys wanted, and how were they dressed? Hafiz said they were in camouflage and slippers asking for some bottled waters and candy bars. Slippers, hmmm, not combat issue boots? Always wise to humor the kids, he added, and let them ride in the back. Give them water or cigarettes in case they remember the rebuff. I readily agreed, because I don't fancy being used as a live bait to these children-in-arms.

I was quite humbled actually, to be in such a place. Evolutionary biologists and archeologist have found evidence that the Homo sapiens hailed from parts of what is now Sudan and Kenya. It's quite inspiring to think our original ancestors once walked the earth where I now am flying over ruts in our diesel-powered pick-up. If the evolutionist are correct, this is indeed home, before the progenies of Eve and Adam evolved enough to cross whole continents.

After a few kilometers of small talk, dodging potholes and slithering snakes on this Highway to Hell I again asked Hafiz on the security situation. Since it’s quite an effort to talk and drive at the same time, he just shrugged. It would seem that I would find out for myself in due course.

I was thinking of the child soldiers, as Hafiz recounted the spot where the he was stopped earlier. I continued to scan the horizon half-hoping to see rebels. I asked where the insurgents get the money from. From the way he looked at me, I already knew that to be a Silly Question. His black obsidian eyes seemed to say: Where else but from that Evil Outpost of Tyranny headed by a real Bushman in the White House?

Yeah, but why are these kids carrying AK-47's? If the Yanks were to supply arms, it would surely be M-16's wouldn't it? Of course I was being naive. What the Yanks does best is supply money, and loads of it. Who cares where they get the weapons from?

I finally saw some child soldiers by some trees under the wayside. I'd put them somewhere between Primary IV to Lower Secondary if these kids were in school instead of playing Combat in oversized faitigues with real guns. Waving at us with their AK-47’s, they seemed harmless, if you can suspend disbelief for a moment and their AK's are indeed toys. Maybe these were the rebels that Hafiz had hosted earlier on the way to the airstrip. We waved back, in the universal gesture of Howdy.

I also saw some backhoes and caterpillars parked by the road, the work gang taking a break from resurfacing this sorry piece of red earth they call “road”. Moustafa explained (shouting from the back actually) that the rains would come in a month or two, hence the need to elevate the present road from the coming floods. Floods? What, here? Apparently it does flood here in the May-July monsoons. That’s when it gets “fun”, said Moustafa, slapping my shoulder for added effect. That’s when the snakes come out, he added, and all the bugs you can imagine that one needs full net masks when working at night.

The stark monotone landscape was finally broken by a tall structure in the distance. It was the rig’s derrick structure sticking out like a sore thumb in the bush. As we came to the perimeter I saw several large tents, dark green in the unmistakble color of the army. My heart leaped and I gave my "protectors" a cheerful smile and a wave as we passed.

Another quick look from Hafiz and I knew this wasn't the government army. The original fifty-plus North Sudanese Army had long abandoned their post. Now the rebels themselves have taken to “guarding” us. Although I have no proof of this, through local militiamen - The Client - headquartered at the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, is actually paying the rebels for the usurped security service. Great, let’s pay gangsters next to guard our nice freehold, gated community in suburbia Malaysia. Unbelievable, but true, because oil has to flow, people to be employed, guns to be bought. Let’s roll with it.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The rebels are part of the SPLA (Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army) headed by John Garang. Apparently they have come to some sort of a truce with the Sudanese government, and in fact, Johnny Boy has been given vice-presidential status (First Vice President no less!) by President Omar Basher in a bid to further quell rebellion. But surely it offers no comfort to me when I see mostly pre-teen soldiers barely 100 yards away. Silly thoughts of whether .22 caliber AK-47's bullets can penetrate my sorry Malay ass at that distance floated in the back of my mind.

What I can surmise was renegade Johnny Boy telling the Sudanese cabinet that only SPLA will be allowed to provide security for rigs in the autonomous Dinka heartland, and he proceeded to chase out professional government troops only to be replaced by amateur soldiers. I suppose this is free market at work, let the locals benefit so to speak - trickle-down economics of the perverse kind. But I can bet The Client never factored this into the equation either.

Finding Eve

One fine morning some weeks later I heard a familar rustling outside my work cabin. I was enjoying my second cup of thick Sudanese coffee and my fifth Dunhills of the day, doing nothing in particular, perhaps even musing about writing a journal about my experiences in Sudan. The reason I lay idle was the rig was "shut down" due the unavailability of a critical piece of equipment - a frequent occurrence anyway. I had earlier radio-ed my crew at the camp to sleep-in and not show up. I looked forward to enjoy my solitude.

Sometimes a mule would forage around our work-site, among the thrash, no-thanks to sorely lacking sanitary habits of rig personnel (the don't call rig workers "oilfield thrash" for nothing).

I thought I heard a females voices, so I went outside to investigate.

This was my encounter with the mythical Eve that would forever burn into memory.

And there they were, a family of three; a girl of about twelve, and a boy on his mother’s hip. They must have been going through our thrash outside, but was now rooted to the spot, three pair of eyes on me. The mother was in her late twenties, but I couldn’t be sure. She had a dirty t-shirt on and and a piece cloth that reminded me of cheap curtains wrapped around her hips .

They were wondering how to proceed, at least Eve and the mother were, and I was at a loss myself. The boy, naked, perhaps two years old was already showing signs of malnutrition—the disproportionately large head and belly. But with malnutrition, one can never be sure. They could be younger than they looked, especially when it comes to children. Eve, I could not help but notice, had breasts that reminded me of lemons; perky and upturned. She also wore a rag that covered her modesty below, but not her pubescent mounds - symmetrical and really quite beautiful to look at but got me looking cross-eyed . Oh, and I now thought that she really must be older than twelve. She wasn’t shy, just an indignant look about her, like I was the interloper and not her. I forced my eyes to look away, thinking of what I was going to say to mother and the girl.

But what could I say to them?

They were pitiful to look at, Eve the girl held a banana peel that I had discarded only yesterday. What was she going to do, eat it? I gestured them to come inside, holding the door open, but still, mother and daughter just stood in their tracks. They didn’t quite know what to make of of my intentions. I don’t blame them. I myself am not sure what my intentions were.

I have a mini-fridge in the cabin, my last stock of orange juice, UHT milk, and a loaf of rock hard Sudanese bread. There was a small bar of Cadbury’s as well. I took the chocolate and bread out to show them. I gave them my most friendly smile, a bit hesitant at first but Eve came came forward to unabashedly take the chocolate from my hand. Careful not to draw my eyes to the inevitable, I motioned for them to come in. This time they did come, sat on the floor and ate in silence while I dug out some bottled water from a box.

Some gleam in my eye maybe, because even with her mother and little brother with her, Eve still looked at me with suspicion. For some reason I desperately wanted to win her over, I wanted her to know that I'm a friend, a person you can trust. But how do I convey this without talking Dinkanese or whatever the hell they speak around here?

I sighed, and what else could I do but light up and take in the precious scene before me: A once-proud people so pure and untainted from the dawn of civilization now brought down by the ravages of war. Or rather, brought down to sit on the floor facing me. I believe it was probably the first time they laid eyes on a Malay.

Soon they finished every last bit of bread, the girl imploring me for more chocolate. I turned my palms over and curled my lips in apology. As they got up to go, I thought I detected a hint of a smile from Eve. Her breasts resplendant, as usual, arose with her with the minimum of fuss that can only come from skin so taut and young. She was not at all self-concious, comfortable in her sexuality, or rather, unperturbed by it.

Ah, Eve, from thy wombs I have descended forth, and I asked myself why am I waxing lyrical over some girl in the bush? It must be Sudan, I thought, it must be the atmosphere that did it for me.

I turned on my notebook computer, made my fourth cup of coffee for the day, and began a business letter asking for a transfer.

©2007 MatSalo Images. Some rights reserved. Canon Digital Ixus 850. Top Image: Full Moon Over Straits of Makassar, Celebes Sea, May 31, 2007


J.T. said...

Wow Mat Salo, splendid piece. Enjoyed your posting thoroughly ... once again.
ahhh... I am now basking in the 'afterglow'. My hunger for your jottings has been satisfied. 'Tis a pity I don't smoke. ;)

By the way, I think put a man anywhere in this world and the atmosphere will do it for him. :)

Mat Salo said...

Aah JT,

So flattered that you were lurking around waiting for me to post this one up. I had you in mind, so I was a bit in a hurry, forgot to add the pix, clean up a few things. Oh JT, just for you able to finish - what I consider, a ponderous and inelegant piece - let alone ENJOY makes me think it's worth it, worth it, worth it. Danke Schon!

Yes, situations are dangerous JT because thats how atrocities get started; from Rwanda to Holocaust. Seen Schindler's List? It takes a special kind of people to able to let common good sense to prevail I guess...

galadriel said...

Beautiful...my friend. They say real writers write from the heart. Through your posts you show us a slice of humanity and in that little slice, I see your own fragile humanity, the doubt, the stoic acceptance, the razor sharp observation.

I love it.

mekyam said...

I second J.T. I'd take a drag of something too if I smoke.

MS, you're a natural. Everytime I baca you, I'm wowed by your literary timing because it seems instinctive. Then you got that sense of phenomena. Mahal tu!

Orang tulis bagus ramai MS, tapi orang tulis bagus yg pandai cerita, as rare as orang minyak melayu with a wicked* eye in the waste of Sudan.

Ni bukan ngampu, ni ikhlas.

* wicked as in discerning. ;D

Mat Salo said...

Alaamak.. here come my favorite wimmin again...

AR.. Razor sharp observation? I bukan balak Razor laa.. To prove it, next time pi Kemaman Coffee House - I belanja tau! What can I say? Kalau YOU yang cakap, I terpaksa terima... hehee. Lagi pun my humanity is not only fragile - oredi berkecai Sis! :)

Mek Yam..

Eh Jangan citer pasal rokok! Our sister Elviza forced to quit, cian dia. I'd better consider too..

Guess what Mek Yam? Today is Sunday, I'm drilling away, but you guys HAVE MADE MY DAY!!! P/S. So which one am I, wicked or discerning? Some people think I'm inclined towards the former... ha-ha..

Thanks JT, Thanks AR, Thanks MY!

The Ancient Mariner said...

Hi Mat,

Another great instalment of yr forthcoming book. Thanks for the photo of the blue moon over the Celebes Sea.

But 'blue' here doesnt really have to be the colour, eh?

J.T. said...

I love that last picture - so pretty. Picking up from Apandi's posting about equpiment (and size??) - that is talent with a good equipment. haha
Oh yes Mat Salo, this piece was so worth waiting for. Thank you for keeping me in mind. :)
I saw Schindler's list... all it took was one special man to make a huge difference. Also saw Hotel Rwanda - very sad. Atrocities naturally loom in dangerous places like that. We are so used to living in fairly safer places, it is scary to be in a place where child-soldiers walk around with guns as if they were play things.

I thought I was the only one who needed a fag (oops, sorry a drag) after reading this. Mekyam pun. hehehe
Kesian Elviza. Better not talk about smoking. It can be tough.

Mat Salo said...

Bang Cap't..

Say that again.. What- "My forthcoming" book? With all due respect Sir, I shall wait with baited breath for yours to be published first. To be frank Cap'n, writers are like wine. The aged, the better! So it takes a certain amount of life's experience to be able to share stuff. I wouldn't be able to write what I write, say, ten years back. Masih beringuih! That's why I have a lot of respect for young writers - many dia tau semua nih?

As regards to, err, "blue".. er.. heh-heh.


So Glad you like the pix. I think writing is a bit like taking photos too. You never know what turns 'em on. Some post that I think so-so only got quite a lot of people "excited" - same with photos. Some photos that I think are great hardly gets a look, let alone a comment. But to be able to reach and touch (JT - please - I don't mean in the literal sense!) a lot of people with your photos or writing is really quite exciting. Eh JT, I'd better not let on, lest you take my comment for innuendoes that means something "blue"..I takut laa catch the "bug" from you.. he...

-A Sinner Pretending to be a Saint-

J.T. said...

Oh Mat Salo, I did not think it any other way. To be able to reach and touch others with photos and/or writing is absolutely exciting.
I have the same thoughts - jottings of mine that I think is so-so gets the most comments. Just glad someone notices. I am honoured, in fact. :)
Alamak! am I one with 'bug'? I did not mean to give out that impression.
Yours truly, who is sizzling in hell, JT.

Kata Tak Nak said...

What are you doing, doing what you are doing? You should be a writer man. Get yourself a nice story and you can sell I tell you. Man you're good.

Kata Tak Nak said...

Thanks for the compliment. Matbe after pencen, like you said, kuta belasah cukup2. I am excited of the possibility of you and family coming to Penang. I live on the Island proper at least until pencen la. I am from BM, have a house there but work over in the island. I have sent an sms to your number. Give me a call or sms me should you decide to come to Penang.

Apandi said...

Even re-reading this is a pleasure. Excellenttttt again. JT, blue, equipment, touching, hmmmm, kah kah kah.

Anonymous said...

it's all about eve mannn...u did not furnish us with pix of eve so i guess she's just a figment of ur wild imagination or d sudan summer sandstorm caused u 2 halucinate or u r just a great fabricator but anyway i like dem lemons reminder.


J.T. said...

Mat Salo, now I know where I got that 'bug' from... the devil's advocate is never far behind. He likes bugs!

Kata Tak Nak said...

I have sent you an sms. Did you get it? Okay just call me at 0124352843 or email me at cikgunazir@gmail.com

Mat Salo said...


Nampak gayanya ko dah ok nampak.. Alhamdullillah! C U at FG...

Chegu N,

Got it Chegu.. thanks. Insya'Allah. Take care of Mem first ya bang?

knonnon.. I'm getting exasperated and desperated here. You seemed hung up on "lemons"... and you claim it is a "figment of my wild imagination". Correction: My imagination ain't wild, only I am. There. Satisfied? He.. tks for visiting, dude...

Hmmm JT, WHO is the Devil's Advocate you're referring to? Er JT, you've read Dante's Inferno, no? Next time I order sizzling steak at Ship's you can bet you'll be in my thoughts. Wencha comin' to visit us natives? Can't you blanjer me onde-onde at KLCC too?


mekyam said...

MS: That's why I have a lot of respect for young writers - many dia tau semua nih?

True, me too MS. Macam Amir Hafizi, the Malay Male. Hahahaha! (Just saying his name cracks me up)

Apart from amazing writing skills in English, Malay and Rempit, budak tu knowledgeable gila. I heard baru lebih sikit suku abad umur dia. Couldn't have gathered those prodigious but eclectic knowledge from excessive devouring of graphic novels, mangga & jap porns alone. Or getting his heads serviced in Phuket... hehehe!

I think he must be an old soul ... a wicked dirty old soul who accidently chose to be born in the boondogs of Pahang in the late 20th Century and thumb his snot nose at the world in the early 21st Century.

Gosh, I'm jibbering. Sorry, MS. I just came from reading Malay Male and am still drying my tears... :D

J.T. said...

Devil's Advocate: The name's Apandi. He makes me 'sin' by polluting my mind. I was trying to steer my way back to the correct path but that man put me right back into sizzle street.
All because he said: "JT, blue, equipment, touching, hmmmm, kah kah kah." Be gone, oh evil one! haha

Mat Salo, I have not read "Dante's Inferno" but heard about it. Maybe that is the next book I should pick up after I finish up "Tuesdays with Morrie".
Nice to know that when that hot plate sizzles under your nose, I will be thought of. :) How do you take your meat? Rare? Medium? Well-done? I like mine medium to rare. yummm..
No plans yet in store to visit 'tanah tumpahnya darahku'. But when I do and if you are in town, we can have more than onde-onde at KLCC ... we can have pisang goreng, pulut-pulut (I forgot the names of the kinds I like but I can point them out when I see them). After that you must blanjer Sundanese food (4th floor KLCC). hahahaha

elviza said...


If I say this, you ll say that I m too generous with praises lah, nak suruh you belanja lah, bla bla bla.... but what the hell:

This is a perfect piece (how come you have another perfect piece just after a previous perfect piece? Bloody unfair!).

You write beautifully.

Dear JT & Mekyam,

I am trying my utmost best to quit. The BP has been bad lately. So I promise a loooooootttt ( I mean really a lot and I worry them silly!) of people, myself included to QUIT the smoke. Sigh sigh sigh sigh. This is one of my hardest fought battles thus far.

Till then brother. Take care.

Oh one more thing -

*CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP (standing ovation)*

elviza said...

Excuse mua Brother


Enjoy Tuesday with Morie. It is a serious eye-opener and superbly written by a soprts columnist? As Rocky would say, beat me!

tokasid said...

Salam pak matsalo:

aku dan baca sikit baru.Hari ni kalut sikit.Mungkin petang aku sambung baca balik.Takat yg dah baca memang best .Aku stim tengok gambaq sunset tu...fuhh!
You take care dong pak.

mekyam said...

Poor Elviza! I promise I won't mention sm*k*ng in your presence anymore.

Have you tried using the patch?

elviza said...

Mekyam dear (sorry bro, mintak lalu sikit)

Them patches are overrated!! The pain is still the same.... huaaaaa

IRLAN said...

lemons, eh?

IRLAN said...

not melons, meh?

As usual, good piece of writing... and the pix... National Geography quality!

Anonymous said...

Anyone ever told you you kinda look like Joseph Estrada without your glasses on?

Kudos, great story telling!

J.T. said...

Tumpang lalu MS..

Elviza, I have been enjoying 'Tuesdays With Morrie' since I started. So poignant, the lessons in life. Definitely superbly written. There was so much hype about that book but still never picked it up until I watched the movie 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' (I know short cut way to a book but that piqued my interest in the author himself). Mitch Albom melts my heart.
MS, is that first picture in your posting, you?

elviza said...

JT, Yup that was him

p/s sorry bro, you took so long in answering. The rig is taking up all of your time.

J.T. said...

Mat Salo.. rig working you to the bones huh? poor chap.
Thanks to Elviza ... she confirmed my enquiry. Now I know who to look for in KLCC to blanjer onde-onde. haha
After that, a full-blown Sundanese dinner. yummm..

Raden Galoh said...

Bro... read it and reread it and re-reread it... and I'm lost for words...

Immensed in your writing... is this what drilling has done onto you? Then tak sia2... cari tempat nak gali rupanya gali idea... gali ilmu... Yup! You should be a writer... Think this is one good art you could do for retirement... ehhh.. do I say retirement?

Btw, bila nak balik ni? Jom set a place for tea? Teh tarik lah eh..

QueenB said...

wah, cakap pasal makan, i pun jadi lapar! Mana nice onde-onde n sundanese cuisine?

really, MS, u r a natural photo-journalist!

J.T. said...

Quick question MS, what is the author's name for 'Dante's Inferno'? I've heard of the book title but have no clue who is the author. Apparently there are several authors. Harold Bloom? Alighieri? I don't even know if I am getting these names correctly. hehe
Please enlighten me. :)

galadriel said...


If u have the time when u come back and get this book, the Dante Club by Matthew Pearl.

Unusual take on the Dante's Divine Comedies....given a period treatment (America in 1800s)with some gruesomely detailed murder scenes....ah...u have a witches brew minus the Michael Crichton-like oh-we-r-all-gonna-die-if-don't-save-the-world-in-the-next-24hrs.

Go get it. and oh so thanks for dropping by my site.

shar101 said...

J. Estrada look-alike? Hehehe.

Oi MS, you're a celebrity now. With lotsa fans.

So all we need to do is print out your postings and get you to autograph em, and voila, we have a 'collectors' item.

Hmmm...wonder how much they'll be worth after ten years.

Hope you're having fun in Penang with the family and buzz me when you're back on KL. We'll get the usual suspects to do the...uhhh.. usual hi-jinks.

Peace, bro.

ewoon said...

Why the transfer, bro? You'll miss out on the Lawrence-of-Arabia, Indiana-Jones, James-Bond, and, Blackhawk-Down kinda adventures.

Red-soil-dusted New Balance sneakers and better-speced-than-GI-issue duffel bag are only minor inconveniences compared to the Hollywood-movies experiences that you live. i'll trade job with you anytime, but alas, cannot tell the difference between slime and crude.

Hang in there, lah. Tell us more about Eve and how she has blossomed :-p You write well. Enjoyed every bit of your recollection. BTW, were you caught taking a leak in the Sudanese dessert as the pix suggests?

Hantu Laut said...

This is my first visit and it wouldn't be my last.Excellent writing, lucid and original.Looking forward to many more.

I don't know what's your bread and butter now but you certainly have the making of a good novelist.

Keep up the good work.

Mat Salo said...

hahaha Ewoon, must trawl my previous posts because I missed all the excellent postings from you guys... haha, you still wanna find out how Eve blossomed, eh? I wanna know too but too bad I don't think I'll be sent there again. Not after the ruckus I made to get my transfer....

Hantulaut - damn, many thanks for the compliments, Sir. Dunno why, I find writing really hard. Right now I'm in Malaysia but will make my way to Indonesia soon. Hopefully I will be able to churn another "entertaining" piece.

Tuan Lokong said...

I was reading thro' yes we may not had met before but we had something in common here.

Leaving this comment now from Khartoum Tower, Sudan sound familiar? Well maybe you left behind friend here, I could help to kirim Sabakhir or salam to them though. Aha just for the record when were you in this part of the world?....